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Musick: Sox fans savor rare highlight

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 11:38 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 12:00 a.m. CDT
Caption
(M. Spencer Green)
Frank Thomas, two-time Most Valuable Player with the White Sox, was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

CRYSTAL LAKE – Every summer, fans stroll into Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen and ask Kyla Morris to switch one of the four TV sets to a White Sox game.

Just kidding.

“I’ve never personally seen it happen,” said Morris, a hostess at the restaurant. “Usually, the Cubs game is on.”

Of course.

In terms of popularity, the Cubs represent the alpha underdogs of baseball season in McHenry County. It’s Theo this, Starlin that – as a columnist, I’m guilty of feeding the beast – and it’s Wrigley this, rooftops that.

So let’s take a moment to salute the region’s White Sox fans.

Frank Thomas has been elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. That’s a huge deal.

Sox fans exist out here, by the way. At least, a few of them do.

Take Pat Walsh, for example. He’s a 44-year-old attorney from Crystal Lake who heard the news of Thomas’ induction just after 1 p.m.

“I was very excited,” Walsh said. “I believe I dropped an ‘F-bomb’ or two.”

Earmuffs, kids.

For the past few years, Sox games also have begged for blindfolds.

Maybe you’re a Cubs fan, and you’re shrugging off the South Side’s long, lean seasons since 2005. So what, you’re saying. Big deal. My team is even worse.

First, true.

Second, at least you have a large group of fellow fans with whom to commiserate.

As for Sox fans?

They’re outnumbered badly, although exact figures are anyone’s guess.

Two to one, at least. Maybe three to one? Perhaps five to one?

“With my own family, I’m probably outnumbered 10 to one,” said Tony Penna, a McHenry County sheriff’s sergeant. “It’s no biggie. I can live with it.”

Penna, 48, is an exception to the rule. He grew up on the North Side – his family lived near Armitage and Cicero and eventually settled in Franklin Park – but he adopted the Sox as his favorite team because his father took him to both teams’ games.

In 2000, Penna’s father gave him a baseball that had been autographed by Thomas. Years later, Penna met Thomas at the annual Sox fan convention and shook his hand.

Both were great moments, as was Thomas’ Hall of Fame announcement. Before Wednesday, Penna said, the last great Sox highlight was the World Series more than eight years ago.

Penna was in the seats for Games 1 and 2 at U.S. Cellular Field.

“The best moment ever was Konerko’s grand slam,” Penna said. “Without a question.”

Walsh was at the World Series, too, as a fan at Game 2. He grew up in Palatine, but his father was from the South Side, and Sox games were all that he watched as a child.

So Walsh brought his son Michael (now 15 years old), and his son Joe (now 13) to the World Series. His son Tommy (now 10) was too young to attend, he said.

By now, all of the Walsh boys have followed in their father’s footsteps as avid fans.

By now, Tommy is old enough to understand what he missed.

“He’s made it quite clear that the next time they make it to the World Series, he gets to go with me,” Walsh said.

But the next World Series could be many years away. That makes the news about Thomas’ trip to Cooperstown even sweeter.

How badly did Sox fans need a new highlight?

“More than my next breath,” Walsh said.

• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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